Shaenon takes a tour of two works by legendary mangaka Natsume Ono.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Mar 5th 2004
DVD 1: Peacekeeper + Artbox w/ballcap Limited Edition
In the future, mankind is spread out all across space, joined together by the Global Union. To help mediate and prevent economic problems, the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs was formed. Working in the law enforcement branch of GOTT, Éclair and Lumiere are two of the youngest agents they have, but also two of the most talented. Their job is to carry out whatever mission their supervisor hands them, whether its escorting a politician across the galaxy, transporting prisoners, or tracking down smuggling rings. They may be kids, but don't you dare underestimate them!
For the past several years or so, three truths have existed in the world of anime. Truth one: dynamic female duos kicking interplanetary buttocks will always draw in viewers. Two: Panties and breasts are a necessity, but must be kept to a minimum. And lastly: Gonzo makes pretty stuff. If that's the winning combination for a fan-pleasing show, then Kiddy Grade's got the right idea. Recently released by FUNimation, it's a series that scribbles the word “FUN” on bathroom mirrors with pink lipstick, all without having to think too hard. While the first few episodes have the drawback of being a bit slow, they're already showing potential.
With the recent trend of releasing the first DVD with an artbox, along with a t-shirt or some other goody, FUNi's decided to jump on the bandwagon with the Kiddy Grade Collector's Box. Containing not only the first volume of the series and a sleazy reverse cover, it also comes packaged with a snazzy black baseball cap embroidered with the logo. Despite the decidedly sketchy name of “Kiddy Grade” that would make any cap-wearer look like a child-porn director, it's been a popular item that's been selling like fresh hotcakes. With fans scrambling for it on eBay for much more than it's worth, the boxset is quite a find for fans of this sleek new animated adventure. It's only made better by the sturdy box itself, adorned with vibrant images and that smooth glossy coating that everyone enjoys.
Of course, while the packaging may be a nice accessory, the real factor is to think inside the box. While that may seem obvious, it also describes one's first impression of the series perfectly. On the surface, with its stunning visuals and pleasant audios, all signs say that Kiddy Grade is slick and worthy of the highest praise. Inside this picturesque exterior though, is a spongy core that is currently a bit dry and lacking in substance, but has the potential to soak up enough energy to truly be an entertaining show. Oddly, the reason for its slow pace and dullness can't be pinpointed. Even with all the exciting fights and crime busts, Kiddy Grade brings on yawns like only Nyquil could. Maybe it would be better if it wasn't so drawn-out with scenes that could easily accomplish their goals in half the time. Even so, there's no reason why the episodes should feel so lethargic.
Taking place in Star Century: 0328, humanity has spread across the universe, linking itself with warp holes and communication devices that are able to transcend the speed of light. Economic affairs and cargo are regulated by the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs (GOTT), an entity that seems to do everything from arbitration, to escorting, to drug busts. The series opens with a tour of GOTT headquarters that is quickly broken up by terrorist activities. What better segue than this to introduce our lead characters, two agents named Lumiere and Éclair, who do a quick job of cleaning up the intruders. The first is a 10-year old hacker that can puppeteer the command systems of any machine, and the latter is a 16-year old with breasts of anime proportions.
It immediately becomes obvious what kind of personality quirks each girl is supposed to have. Lumiere is a reserved girl that places heavy emphasis on being ladylike, reminding our audience every few minutes that girls must be elegant. This is objectified by her love for grape juice (underage drinking is a big no-no), wine glasses, and smoke bombs disguised as champagne bottles. Éclair provides the foil as an energetic ham who revels in dressing up in different outfits and embarking on a personal quest to make everyone like her. It's of no surprise then that her weapon of choice would be a tube of lipstick that either gives her superhuman strength when applied, or snakes into a binding ribbon when extended. Whether the characters plan on staying in their predefined niches forever is to be determined, but for the time being, it's a cute little gimmick that lets viewers instantly become familiar with the gals.
If these personality traits weren't made obvious enough by the girls' actions, the voice acting is always there to back it up. Packed with vitality and oomph, every line is delivered with confidence and pizzazz for both the Japanese and English dialogues. Everything would almost be perfect if a minor detail didn't exist—the fact that our two main characters are children. Actually, it's not a minor detail at all. The young age of the girls is referred to every chance possible (which later explains the name of the series), but both dialogue tracks feature voices that are several years too old. The significantly older actresses just don't come across as children and end up sounding silly. Everything else about the language tracks is very well done though. The English script, while different from the original Japanese dialogue, retains the meanings very well and adds its own nuances to make the language transition much more natural.
Still, the best part of the audio is the music, a fact that will become obvious to anyone who even watches a single episode. With the kind of stirring soundtrack fitting for any series of epic proportions, it's filled with rousing orchestrations that convey feelings of grandiosity that cannot be described. Light-hearted scherzos, John Williams-flavored themes—all can be found here and enjoyed. The music is capped at both ends with two catchy theme songs. The intro is an Engrish-spattered song of classic J-pop fare, starting off with the horrifying word combination of “Any planet is keeping twinkle!” while the ending is a slow ballad performed by Little Viking. Even if you've never seen the series, you should have no problem enjoying the music.
As far as sensual appeal goes, the best has been saved for last. Backed by the artistic powerhouse Gonzo, the visuals are stunning and fit the studio reputation well. With sickeningly fluid animation, well-blended computer graphics, and careful attention to detail, Kiddy Grade is a feast for the eyes. The corresponding art receives the same treatment, featuring garish colors and bold backgrounds to give the characters their vigor and awkwardly misplaced pep. With an organization so influential as GOTT, and job assignments so important, having the seriousness interrupted with the loud, prominent characters is almost boorish. As with all grrl-power series though, the requisite amount of fanservice must also be thrown in. From Éclair's 16-year old breasts to the bitchy ass-flaunting broads that serve as interoffice rivals, there's just enough fanservice to not be able to take GOTT very seriously at all. The short skirts, hot pants, and leotards hardly do their part in making their characters any more serious, helping to rack up a total of six underage panty flashes in the first episode.
Although the characters do seem out of place in the alleged prestige of their organization, they help make the series the entertaining heap of brainless fun that it is. Loaded with a lively cast and backed up with the slick animation that Gonzo is known for, this series is sure to please fans that are looking for some butt-kicking girl action. Be forewarned though, despite the many good things that can be said to describe the show, it still lacks that substance that drives all good series forward. There really is no discernible reason why, but the first three episodes are flat-out dull, even if they shouldn't be. With all the good things working in its favor though, here's hoping that Kiddy Grade will pick up once it gets some momentum rolling.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : A
Art : B
Music : A
+ Beautiful animation and stirring music
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